Why Is IFPO's Client Volume So Large?
By Lisa Goldberg Ozer, March 1, 2017
We are trying to understand why our client population has grown so rapidly recently. In 2016, IFPO had a grand total of 8,296 visits by 1,184 individuals, 733 fully registered clients plus 451 emergency guests who came one to two times.
We believe that, although we used to see only 25% of our total client base each week we were open (with the rest coming much more infrequently), the percentage of our total client base who come every week has increased. Our clients are now coming to see us more often each month, and more are coming regularly each month (instead of only a few times a year).
A mid-January report by the United Way may give some insight into why our clients now come more often. The report shows that 37 percent of households in New Jersey could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care and transportation in 2014. While m any households are living below the federal poverty level, an even greater number of households are what United Way calls "ALICE" - an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. 52 percent of all jobs in the state pay less than $20 per hour.
We service a population with tremendous needs. 67% of Orange residents are classified as "ALICE" working poor (#13 in the state), and 59% are "Alice" working poor in East Orange (#28 in the state). With 535 municipalities in NJ, having our clients ranked so high on the "Alice" list is not good. By comparison, Millburn is 522 on the list (12%), South Orange is 465 (18%), Maplewood is 442 (20%).
We also are seeing increased client numbers as a result of our Diaper program (which now has 201 people and 241 babies enrolled). We started our diaper program two years ago, and it is growing. Our diaper clients generally come to IFPO at least once a month (the last week of the month, when we give out diapers), receiving both diapers and food for their families. In January and February, we averaged giving out diapers for 150 babies on "diaper day", and each of their parents also was a client choice client.
And, although it is only speculation on our part, we may also be seeing our clients more often because the client choice system (in place since July) better serves our clients needs than the old "grab a pre-packed bag" system, as does our increased provision of toiletries and fresh produce.